The Estonian Liberation War

  By Kalevipoeg, 2006; Revised

The Estonian Liberation War, lasted from November 28, 1918 to January 3rd 1920, was a war fought for Estonian independence in defense from Soviet Russia. The war also included the War of Landeswehr. When Germany had capitulated to the Allies in November 11. 1918., the Estonian Temporary Government started functioning again in Tallinn which was supported by the Kaitseliit (direct translation - Defense alliance) which was an Estonian military organisation formed underground during German occupation. In November 16 The Temporary Government declared a volentary mobilization and in November 21 started forming an army in size of one division. The founding of state defense was founded by the war minister, Konstantin Päts, general major Andres larka and a divison leader, general major Aleksander Tõnisson.

In November 22 the Red army launched its first attack towards Narva, but the offensive was repelled by leaving German forces. On November 28 the Red Army formed a new attack. At that time, the Estonian Kaitseliit had 14,500 men and the army 2,000 men without heavy equipment (artillery, machinery etc). For the defense of Narva 1100 men( with 13 machine guns ) were able to be used, only a few hundred men for the Petser area in South-East and East-Estonia. The Soviet Army command mounted its 7. Army at Estonia. In that section ( the front of Narva ), were 7,000 Soviets in 6 divisions with 22 cannons, 111 machine guns, one armored train, 2 armored cars, 2 planes, the cruiser "Oleg" and 2 destroyers. The Petser front was attacked by the 2. Novgorodian division (4400 men, 12 cannons, 50 machine guns, 2 armored trains and 3 armored vehicles).

By the evening of the 28th of November, the defenders were in danger of being surrounded due to the fact that the Soviets had managed to pull of a descent with a landing party of 750 men. To avoid being surrounded, the commander of the Viru front and of the 1. Division, general Aleksander Tõnisson, gave an order to abandon Narva. Although the Temporary Government made a decision for mandatory recruiting on November 29, the formation of an army took time. While easily ridding themselves of the weak resistance of the Estonian defense groupings, the Red Army took Valga(Dec 18), Tartu(Dec 22) and Tapa(Dec 24). By the change of the year, the Red army had reached near Tallinn, Paide, Põltsamaa, Viljandi and Pärnu.

On conquered areas, the Soviets put up its puppet government - The Estonian Workers Commune. To subdue the local populaous, widerange terror was used. To our knowledge, 650 people were murdered and 4000 were deported to Russia.

On December 23, polkovnik Johann Laidoner was appointed as the Chief of the Army. He invited polkovnik Jaan Soots to be his aid. With the energetic efforts of Johann Laidoner, the Estonian army, was in the size of 13,000 men by the turn of the year 1918/1919. 600 of them were officers. With army units formed on the side of the army, territorial defense batallions of volunteers and on special grounds, strike units: The Julius Kuperjanov batallion, the Sakala partisa

General Johann Laidoner
General Johann Laidoner
n batallions, the Malev of Kalev (a weird translation by me) and the Scouts regiment formen in example of the USA special forces. To easen the control and command of the army, the 2.  Division was formed from the South Estonian troops. Its commander was polkovnik Viktor Puskar.

During the same time, the Temporary Government turned to Great Britain and Finland. By December 5, the Finnish arms reached us - 5000 guns(rifles most likely) and 20 cannons with ammo. By the 12th of December the Brittish Navy sqaudron under admiral E. Alexander Sinclair reached Tallinn harbour. That secured the Estonian shores and inforced the sea connection with Europe. The Brittish hijacked 2 Russian destroyers on sea and presented them to Estonia. They got new name sin the Estonian navy - "Vambola" and "Lennuk". By December 31, the Brittish had delivered to Estonia 6500 rifles, 200 machine guns and 2 cannons. In Finland, volunteers were being sent to Estonia. During the turn of the year, the first Finnish  grouping got to Estonia under the command of the Swedish major Martin Ekström. In January 1919 the regiment called "Põhja Pojad" (Sons of the North) under the Estonian colonel Hans Kalm.  All together, 3,500 Finnish volunteers arrived in Estonia.

The new greatly strenghtened Estonian military managed to stop the advance of the Red Army by the end of 1918. From January 2-5. 1919 breaking battles all over the front ocurred, on January 7th, an overall offensive by Estonian troops on the Viru front began.  The 3 armored trains built in Tallinn had a large role to play in that invasion - the overall commander of them was Captain Anton Irv. On January 9, Tapa was liberated. An offensive on Tartu followed. Tartu was liberated on January 14th. With a simultanious ground attack and descent near Utria, Narva was liberated on January 18. The front rested on the Narva river for now and the weight of the fighting shifted to South-Estonia. On January 30 an important battle was fought for a vital railroad access in Valga. In command with Lieutenant J. Kuperjanov, the partisans and "Põhja Pojad" conquered, in a fierce fight, the Paju mansion - the last Red army outpost before the town of Valga. Lieutenant Kuperjanov was mortally wounded in battle. In February; Valga, Võru and Petseri were liberated. The front was secured on the ethnic Estonian border.

On February 24, 1919, the Estonian military had 19,400 men, 70 cannons and 230 machine guns on the front. To the Red Army, this certainly was not acceptable, so by the beginning of March, the Red Army command gathered 80,000 men, 200 cannons and 1100 machine guns to the Estonian front, which were supported by 5 armored trains, 14 armored cars and 14 planes. The larger part of the forces were located towards Southern Estonia where, from March to May, the Red Army made intense efforts to brake the Estonian defense. But in Estonia, the number of men on the front was already 30,000, with 165 cannons, 925 machine guns, 9 armored trains and 6 armored cars by spring 1919. The Estonian defense could hold its position, even though the Soviet numbers were far greater. Already during defensive battles, the Estonian Army command, planned a spring offensive in three directions: in the east on the Narva-Petrograd line and Petser-Pihkva line and the third direction was to the south, an offensive to Northen-Latvia. To lead the new offensive, the overall army commander formed a 3. Division of which, Ernst Põdder was put in charge of. The objective of this, was to bring the front on enemy territory and with Ingrians, Russian Whites and Latvians to from a buffer area around Estonian borders. For this purpose, the Estonian government helped to form the Ingrian regiment, Russian North Corp and the North-Latvian Brigade on its own soil. In May 1919, the Estonian army had 74,500 men - 1,500 latvians, 2750 Russians, 300 Ingrians. The Finnish volunteers had left Estonia by that time, but volunteer companies from Denmark and Sweden had arrived here.

On May 12, the Estonian army went on an offensive from Narva, by the 13th of May, they conquered the first forts of Kroonlinn (forgot the English translation of it, Kronstadt maybe). On may 16 the offensive on the Southern front began. On the 25th of May Pskov was conquered and on June 5, on the south shore of Daugava Jekabpils. There we met with Polish forces. The Estonian army reached its largest size at that time: 86,000 men in the army and 32,000 men in the Kaitseliit. In addition to the 3 Divisions, an armored train Division was formed and Captain Karl Parts was the head of it. The Estonian army had 300 cannons, 2000 machine guns, 10 armored trains, 6 armored cars and 28 plains. The Estonian navy (under Johan Pitka) had, on sea, 24 military ships and 11 support ships and on Lake Peipus, 5 military purpose ships and aid support ships.

The 3. Division in Northern-Latvia supported the legal government of Karlis Ulmanis, and contradicted with the local Baltic-Germans who were in power now and who also were supported by German monarchists. In June 5, armed conflicts arose and in June 19-23, the Estonians crushed the Baltic-German Landeswehr and the German volunteers "Iron Division" (in the Battle of Võnnu or Cesis). Estonia had 8100 fighters, 45 cannons and 300 machine guns on the front line and were supported by 4 armored trains and 3 armored cars. The opponent had 9300 men, 96 cannons, 500 machine guns, 1 armored train and 2 armored cars. Estonian troops were commanded by general Andres Põdder in the Landeswehr war.

General Põdder
General Põdder
After the retreat of the enemy, the Estonian navy had an important part in blocking Riga from the sea. On July 3rd, a truce was made, the Germans left Riga, the legal Latvian government returned there. Due to the fact that the Latvian military was yet weak, Estonian troops took the assignment of defending a 100 kilometres of Latvian border until late autumn. On the Estonian eastern border, battle activity lasted, up to autumn, on Russian soil where the North-Western Army fought with changing success against the Red Army. In these changing situations, the Soviet government  dropped the plans of occupying Estonia (the Estonian Workers Commune government was dismissed) and on August 31. made an official peaceoffer. In September during peacetalks in Pskov, the first round gave no results.

By November 1919, the Russian White Guards were defeated and tried to retreat into Estonia. On the 2nd of November, the Estonian Army High Command decided not to let armed Russians on Estonian soil. The leftovers of the North-Western Army were internated. The Estonian forces took on another punch by the Red Army. Against the 1. Division and the 3.Division pulled out of Northern-Latvia, the Red Army High Command put up the 10. and 6. Army (6 Divisions all together). Against the 40,000 Estonians fought 120,000 Russians. In armament, the opponents weren't in such success: 205 cannons (Estonia had 160) and 826 machine guns (Estonia had 667). Estonia had 4 armored trains enforcing the front, the enemy had 6. After attacking the well defended Estonian positions for two months, the Red Army lost 35,000 (among them both killed, and wounded) men and eventually was morally desolated.

Due to that, the peacetalks in Tartu on December 5, were successful and on January 3rd 1920. at 10.30 am. an armistice took effect. The formation of a peace treaty followed that on February 2, the Peace of Tartu (Estonian: Tartu rahu).

The Estonian War of Liberation secured Estonian independence. With the Peace of Tartu, Soviet Russia acknowledged Estonian sovereignity and its newly gained borders without any conditions. On the Estonian side, 5000 died, 14,000 wounded, 2600 of them remained invalids. Citizens of countries supporting Estonia lost 600 dead, and 1000 were wounded. The overall losses of the enemy is not known (maybe they didn't even care to count). During the war, the Estonian Army took 10,000 Red Army soldiers prisoners, 667 Estonian soldiers were captured by the Soviet Army. The Estonian Army took 100 cannons, 500 machine guns, 6 plains, 2 armored cars, an armored train, 26 trains, 700 train wagons and 12 boats/ships from the Soviets.

Estonia's main supplier in the war was Great Britain, plenty of non-military equipment was also given by the USA.